Desire for motherhood: Exploring HIV-positive women's desires, intentions and decision-making in attaining motherhood

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



With access to prevention of parent-to-child transmission (PPTCT) and antiretroviral therapy (ARV), people living with HIV/AIDS are better able to consider childbearing and parenthood. However, there is limited understanding of the reproductive healthcare needs and the impact of infection on the fertility desires of women living with HIV/AIDS. Research on the relationship between fertility and HIV/AIDS has been largely clinical, focusing on the ability of women living with HIV/AIDS (WLHA) to conceive or their pregnancy outcomes. This paper describes the findings of a qualitative study undertaken in Namakkal district, Tamil Nadu, India that aimed to explore fertility desires, intentions and fertility decision-making in WLHA and the barriers they face in fulfilling these desires. In-depth interviews were held with selected 43 currently married WLHA aged 18-35 years and 10 key informants. The women were classified according to whether or not they had living children and, within that, whether they had experienced abortion, wanted more or any children or were pregnant. The main factors distinguishing women who wanted to have a child and those who did not were their levels of anxiety about the future and available family support. Women who indicated that they did not have family support and were stigmatised by the family were reluctant to opt for a pregnancy as they were not sure of the future, including child care in event of parental death. In contrast, those women who decided to have a child did so based on family support, especially when family members offered to take care of the child in the future in the event of parental death. Awareness and access to PPTCT and ARV was another key factor guiding the final decision on child bearing. Findings highlight the need for further research on issues faced by WLHA in fulfilling their fertility desires and intentions and for programmes that both enable WLHA to exercise informed choice in meeting their fertility desires and sensitise healthcare providers about these needs.